2018 – A Year in Review

With the New Year quickly approaching and before I head out onto the ice covered roads of Minnesota tomorrow morning, to head to my family Christmas in the middle of nowhere, I wanted to take some time to reflect on 2018, a year I will always look back on as being pivotal in my career. Let’s rewind to set the stage.



As 2017 was winding down, I found myself smack dab in the middle of a job hunt, seeking to move on from a role and a company where I struggled to see any sort of future for myself. So, I had put myself out there, having no idea of what the future might hold. But in my job search, two things were clear; 1) It was important for me to find a position where I would be working with Tableau every day (we’ll get to why this was important in a later post) and 2) having not used Tableau in my job for nearly two years, I would need to convince somebody that I was worthy of such a position (yes, you read that correctly, I had previously left a job in which I used Tableau daily for a job in which I did not have access to Tableau…was I crazy? We’ll cover this in that later blog post). With 2018 right around the corner, things were starting to look up, regarding the job search. In early December of 2017, much to my surprise and delight, I was recognized by Tableau Public as a Tableau Public Featured Author! Not only was this an absolute thrill for me, but it also served as reassurance that all of those evening hours spent working on my Tableau Public Portfolio were starting to pay off. A few short weeks later, I agreed to join Daugherty Business Solutions, as a Data and Analytics Consultant, working out of their Minneapolis office! With 2017 ending on a high note, I was pumped to bring on 2018! In October of 2017, I had written up some VizGoals for 2018 (shown below with a little something extra from my daughter). When I wrote them down, I was probably a month or two into my job search and these goals would serve as additional motivation for me to find a Tableau related position, as a few were directly dependent on obtaining such a role. Although a couple were fairly generic, I’m happy to report that all of these goals, for 2018, were checked. While achieving 1, 3 and 5 will truly be a continuous effort, numbers 2, 4 and 6 are discrete 🙂 Time to reflect on an unforgettable 2018.


On January 20th, 2018, my wife and I welcomed our second child into the world. A beautiful, healthy, baby boy. Today, Kellen is just over 11 months old and together, he and his big sister keep mommy and daddy very busy and constantly on our toes. Although our house is absolutely crazy at times, we feel very thankful to have been blessed with two wonderful little kiddos. Oh, and just for the record, on Kellen’s first full day on earth, the Minnesota Vikings were demolished in the NFC Championship game by the Philadelphia Eagles, 38-7. Welcome to life as a Minnesota sports fan, bud!! Just kidding, he can be a fan of whoever he wants to…except for the Green Bay Packers…and the New York Yankees…and Duke basketball…and USC football…and Alabama football…and…


Nine days after Kellen was born, I started my new job at Daugherty Business Solutions. Working for Daugherty has been a breath of fresh air. While I get to work alongside and learn from some incredible people every day, Daugherty has also been extremely supportive in my professional development. Just a few weeks after joining the Daugherty team, I reached a goal that had been on the docket for awhile; becoming a Tableau Desktop Qualified Associate. Having been in my role for nearly a year now, I feel that 2018 would have looked entirely different for me, had I not been given the opportunity to join Daugherty, so I’d like to say thank you to Tim Herby and team for seeing the potential in me and taking a chance.


Somewhere early on in 2018, I made a mental note that a new goal of mine was that I wanted to create a visualization that would be good enough to be considered for a #VOTD. Having seen so many amazing Viz of the Day’s, it was like I just had to find out what it felt like to be selected, but the question was how? After reading a few blog posts, I formulated a plan for what would be my first dedicated attempt at capturing a #VOTD. And luckily enough, when I posted my ‘The 50 Greatest Scorers in NBA History’ viz (which was inspired by Michael Mixon’s The Level is in the Details) back on May 30th, on the eve of the NBA Season Opener, it was selected the next day, as #VOTD. And since I already had all the data for each of the top 50 scorers, I began working on a Michael Jordan viz soon after, capturing the scoring of every game throughout his NBA career. Less than a month later, that viz would also become #VOTD. I was super excited, but as one co-worker put it “Well, it’s basically the same viz, so the Jordan one doesn’t really count.” I know he was just giving me a hard time, but that was all the motivation I needed. I was now on a mission for a third #VOTD. Sticking with the sports theme, I aimed at a viz that would be published prior to the NFL season opener. My recent infatuation with jump plots led me down the road of trying something out with them. I don’t recall exactly how the idea came about, but I thought using jump plots could be a cool way to show the wins and losses of NFL teams, with wins jumping above the axis and losses falling below. So, with some inspiration from Chris DeMartini and Sam Parsons, I put together the ‘NFL Win-Loss Margins’ viz that included every game for every team, in the Super Bowl era. I had a lot of fun working on the viz and was really proud of how it turned out. On September 6th, the day of the NFL season opener, it was selected as #VOTD.


I remember sitting in a November 2017 TCTUG (Twin Cities Tableau User Group) meeting and being blown away by a presentation given by Luke Stanke and thinking “Wow, how cool would it be to be THAT good at Tableau?!!” Well, I’m here to report I am not THAT good at Tableau, as I still have a long way to go with the tool. However, in 2018, I was fortunate enough to be asked to present at the TCTUG, a total of three times. I first spoke at the July TCTUG, at Cargill, where I shared my ’50 Greatest Scorers in NBA History’ viz. And more recently, I spoke at both the November and December TCTUGs. I was excited to share my ‘The Magic of New Orleans’ viz (more on this later) at the November meeting, at General Mills and in December, with Daugherty hosting, I shared a Tableau Style Guide that I had spent some time working on. These were all great opportunities to not only get practice speaking in front of anywhere from 75-150 people, but also to simply share my passion for Tableau. Back in November 2017, when I was sitting in that room watching Luke do his thing, I thought there was no chance I could ever be up there presenting. I would be way too nervous. But, it turns out, when you’re REALLY passionate about something, some of the nerves go away, and are replaced with joy and excitement!!


Holy shit, talk about living up to the hype!! Tableau Conference was an unreal experience, one I will not soon forget. The energy over the entire five days I was there was impressive and the passion around Tableau and DataViz from everyone I spoke with was contagious. I was fortunate enough to be in town from Sunday through Thursday. From the sessions to the people to the food and music of New Orleans, I couldn’t have asked for a better first Tableau Conference. I often found myself star gazing as I wondered which of my DataViz idols I would see next. While, I met a lot of people at #TC18, I learned that meeting somebody can come and go in a flash. And while I would have loved to have had longer conversations with many I met, that’s something to shoot for at #TC19…maybe fewer sessions and more hanging out? No matter how quick the conversation was, the important thing was making the connection with so many people in this amazing community. Another exciting part of #TC18 was having two vizzes on display in the Tableau Public Viz Gallery. ‘The Magic of New Orleans’ viz, which I mentioned earlier, had won the New Day for Data Viz Games contest a few weeks prior to conference, so it was on display for that. Additionally, the Tableau Public team had chosen to display my ‘Jordan Career Scoring’ viz as well. Wow, what a feeling to see your work on display for over 17,000 Tableau enthusiasts to check out!!magicmj


While I did participate in several different community projects throughout the year, I didn’t do as well in this area as I had hoped. I was most active in #MakeoverMonday, completing 22 of the 52 weeks, if my math is correct. I also started out well with #SWDChallenge, but then fell off as the year progressed. I completed a few weeks of #ThrowbackDataThursday and a couple each of #SportsVizSunday and #WorkoutWednesday. This means I did not participate at all in #IronViz feeders, #VizforSocialGood or #ProjectHealthViz and that simply cannot happen again in 2019. While I need to support all of these community projects, I understand a huge part of my growth and development will come through participating in them. That is why in 2019, I will be taking on a much more structured approach to growing not only my Tableau and DataViz skills, but also my knowledge of data, analytics and data visualization, in general. Before our little man Kellen was born, I found it pretty easy to stay tuned into what was happening in the community via Twitter, blog posts or Tableau Public. But, as my responsibilities as a father increased upon Kellen’s arrival, it became much more difficult to keep up and I would often find myself not getting around to reading that blog post I meant to read or not doing the #MakeoverMonday I was planning on doing or not starting that book I had planned on reading or writing that novel I was always planning on writing (Family Guy reference for those who are now confused)…but, you get the point. After all, my goal did say Improve and Learn EVERY week, not SOME weeks, MOST weeks or WHICHEVER WEEKS IT IS CONVENIENT.


So in 2019, the approach will be more structured. To ensure I am learning and growing EVERY week of the year, I will begin planning out the material that will be covered each week. Maybe there’s a Tableau Conference session I’ve been meaning to watch or a Tapestry Conference presentation or a new blog post I haven’t read or another awesome Hashtag Analytics episode I have yet to view or maybe I want to finally participate in my first #VizforSocialGood project. Each week, under the Twitter hashtag #PlanToGrow, I will share my plan for that week because a) I’m selfish and want to hold myself accountable and b) I want to share the great resources with others in the community, who may not yet be aware of them. An example week could look something like below.

#PlanToGrow 2019-01: Participate in #MakeoverMonday and #WorkoutWednesday • watch Hashtag Analytics S01E07 • read Lindsey Poulter On Your Marks, Get Set, Go • Book of the Month: Alberto Cairo, The Truthful Art

It will look something like that. And if I do more than those things during the week, then that’s a bonus. But at least each week will begin with a plan and that’s better than I’m doing right now. And by all means, if you’d like to join in, be my guest!! Thank you so much for reading, have a safe and happy New Year and I’ll see you in 2019!!




Jerseys of the NBA – Part II (Building the Viz)

In Part I, we covered the passion behind why building this viz was such an enjoyable experience for me. Now that you all think I’m crazy, we’ll go ahead and begin Part II, what was my approach to building the viz? Let’s get started.

Step 1. The Inspiration

Jerseys of the NBA was inspired by the work of some of my favorites in the Tableau Community, Neil Richards, Simon Beaumont and Sam Parsons. On August 5th, Neil published his second and third Minimalist vizzes, The Simpsons and The Muppets. And a few short days later, Simon published The Colours of the Premier League. While the idea of coloring shapes to create the characters and jerseys piqued my interest, it wasn’t until I saw Sam Parson’s VizForSocialGood project, The Plight of the Pride, in October, that I realized how I would approach building something similar whenever that moment came. I wanted to try doing something with polygons, but I didn’t know what that something was…until the tweet from Vince Baumel, that I mentioned in Part I. NBA Jerseys would be the viz, but 165 of them was far too many, so instead I landed on choosing my favorite jersey from each NBA franchise for a total of 30.

Step 2. Choosing the Jerseys

I had a good idea of what a majority of the jerseys would be, but for some teams, I needed a better idea of all the jerseys they had worn in their franchise history. So, a quick Google search led me to jersey museum. Once there I began jotting down a list of my favorites for each team. I got only so far before the temptation of building one was too much, so I tested it out with a classic Portland Trailblazers jersey (below), mainly worn in the 1980’s. Now that I had proved to myself this could actually be done, it was back to finishing the list of which jerseys would be selected for each team…ok, quick confession. I actually REALLY like the 1990’s Toronto Raptors jersey (below) with the Raptor dribbling the basketball, but thought “how in the hell am I going to re-create that Raptor???” A bit too intimidated, that was the one jersey I shied away from.


Step 3. Sketching and Plotting

With the jerseys selected, the next step was to plot a few of them out on graphing paper, so I could see what the X/Y coordinates needed to be, when adding the stripes and shapes within each jersey.


I quickly learned the easiest route would be to create an outline that would be identical for each jersey and from there I could layer on the other elements as needed. In Tableau, I set my X and Y axes both to run from -500 to 500. However, since jerseys aren’t square, utilizing only the area from -300 to 300 on the X-axis, gave them the appropriate shape. So, the jersey for every team first ended up with this 18-point path as its outline, along with a color ID, based on the primary color of the jersey. All of the colors come from Team Color Codes, a fantastic site if you do any sports related vizzing. My personal preference is to steer clear of using team logos, so the use of team colors provides a nice alternative way to create an easy connection for the reader. This of course assumes the reader is somewhat familiar with the sport.


With all 30 teams equipped with the outline of a jersey and a primary color assigned, it was now time to add in the details. A majority of these were straightforward stripes going down the sides of the jersey or pinstripes in the case of the Charlotte Hornets and Orlando Magic. By far, the two most cumbersome to create were the Phoenix Suns, with their exploding sunburst design and the Denver Nuggets 1980’s retro with the mountains. Plotting the sun on the Suns jersey required a 25-point polygon. To get the stripes/shapes to show up on top of the primary color, a simple sort on Color ID was needed. As you can see, in the Suns case, this brings the sunburst to the foreground.


For the Nuggets jersey, I created the six horizontal stripes first…realizing after the fact that I could have left the dark blue one out, as that was already the primary color. Once the stripes were in place, came plotting out the mountains. For this I used a nice trick I implemented early on in the process, shown below. Navigating to the worksheet for the Nuggets, I turned down the color opacity to somewhere around 30-40% and turned grid lines on. This allows you to see through the jersey and see the grid lines at the same time. With this strategy, it actually only took two passes to get the 49-point polygon for the mountains to the point where they looked really good compared to the actual version. With the jerseys slowly coming together, one major hurdle still stood in my way of being able to produce something I would be proud of…the text. With Tableau Public only supporting a handful of fonts, how would I ever get the names and numbers of each team to remotely resemble the real thing? I think you all know the answer to this, so say it with me…PowerPoint!! It may have been very time consuming scrolling through fonts and saving image after image to be dragged into my Tableau dashboard, but PowerPoint allowed me to basically tie up all of the loose ends on this project. And, by the way, if you haven’t seen it yet, I want to give a quick shout out to Kevin Flerlage for his fantastic blog post and video, Tableau & PowerPoint A Match Made in Heaven.


Step 4. PowerPoint to the Rescue

With a canvas full of partially complete jerseys, it was the power of PowerPoint that allowed this project to reach completion. Starting with the Boston Celtics in the upper left-hand corner of the viz, one by one, I created the lettering and numbering, for each jersey, in PowerPoint. I then saved those as images and dragged them onto the final dashboard in Tableau. As I mentioned earlier, a majority of these consisted of simply scrolling through fonts in PowerPoint along with some NBA team-specific fonts I had downloaded, to find the best match. When the dust had settled, here’s what one of my working PowerPoint slides looked like. Slightly a disaster, but it got the job done!ppt


Of course, a few of these were trickier than others, specifically designing the logo for the Golden State Warriors “The City” jersey. Unwilling to attempt drawing the Golden Gate Bridge with polygons in Tableau, I turned to PowerPoint and five minutes later, we had ourselves a logo, shown above. Once everything was created in PowerPoint and saved as an image, fifty or so drag and drops later, some formatting and alignment and the Jerseys of the NBA viz was complete. Here’s the final product as well as link to the Tableau workbook. Thanks so much for reading and have a great day!!

NBA Jerseys (2)


#MakeoverMonday Week 50 Diary

After a few weeks away, we’re back at it for #MakeoverMonday, Week 50 of 2018. This week, we’re looking at the land use (in square meters) required to produced one gram of protein and this is broken down by several different food types. Below is the original visualization, which I like. A basic bar chart that allows you to quickly see how much more land is required to produce a gram of protein for Beef/Mutton. After a quick glance at the data, I knew that fact would be my focus. My goal was simply to bring a little more attention to it and clean up the viz a bit. Let’s get started. 2018-50orig

Step 1.  Understand the Data

This was a pretty easy step this week, as the data set essentially contains just two columns (food type and land use in sqm) and ten rows (one for each food type). It also contains a column for year, but with the only year being 2017, it’s there more for reference than anything, as we can’t compare year over year trends, etc.

Step 2. Simplicity in Design

With a very straight-forward data set, we’re ready to jump right into the design. If the goal was to try something big and challenging, I would definitely go to my sketch pad here and begin sketching out a possible design. However, in this scenario, as I mentioned above, the original viz was good and the goal was to simply iterate on it, bringing more focus to just how much land use the Beef/Mutton food type requires in comparison to the other food types. Back in September, I saw this blog post by Charlie Hutcheson, where he took apart a #MakeoverMonday viz by Ruchika Agrawal. I thought the use of a bar inside of 100% box was pretty slick and a nice visual for comparisons. Having wanted to try this for quite some time now, I felt this data set would provide a decent use case. So, in this case the 1.024 square meters needed to produce one gram of protein, for Beef/Mutton, would serve as the 100% and the square meters required for the other food types would fill up that “100%” bar. For instance, in the example below, the Pork food type requires 13% of the land that the Beef/Mutton food type requires, to produce one gram of protein.pork

However, in my tooltip, instead of choosing to show how much less land is required by the other food types, since the focus is on the Beef/Mutton food type, I chose to show how much more land is required by Beef/Mutton than by the other food types.


So, at this point I had a pretty basic bar in bar chart that I felt was easy to understand and didn’t stray too far from the original viz.


The last step was to really drive the point home and what better way to do this than with


Step 3. Effective Use of Text

Using a descriptive title allowed me to include some text on the right side of the viz, that helped explain the situation. Again, the first thing I noticed in the original viz was how much more land use was required for Beef/Mutton. My natural instinct was to compare that one food type to all the others, combined. The results are pretty astonishing. It turns out that Beef/Mutton requires more than twice the amount of land needed by all nine other food types, combined. Pretty eye opening if you ask me. So, the finishing touches on the viz was to expand on the fact stated in the title. The final viz is below. Thank you so much for reading, have a great day!!




Jerseys of the NBA – Part I (The Story Behind the Viz)

vince's tweet

It all started with a simple tweet from Vince Baumel, suggesting that perhaps I could use some new wall decor. What Vince tweeted was an absolutely awesome poster that captured the visual history of the NBA jersey and its many style changes over the years. This poster really brought me back and for a few minutes, I browsed the poster reminiscing about some of those classic NBA jerseys from my childhood that will always seem to be tied to a certain player or certain moment. An avid NBA fan as far back as I can remember, much of my childhood consisted of Magic vs. Jordan disagreements off the court and Jeff vs. Chad (my older brother) battles on the court. You see, by the ripe old age of 4, I had become a fan of Magic Johnson and the Showtime Los Angeles Lakers. And by 8, I was ALL IN on Lakers Mania and why not, the Lakers were the most exciting team in the NBA and they were nearly unstoppable, having won three of the last five NBA titles.

But, in the summer of 1991, something happened…something that would spawn a fierce rivalry between my brother and me that had not previously existed. Michael Jordan (my brother’s favorite player) and the Chicago Bulls met Magic and the Lakers in the 1991 NBA Finals…and DESTROYED THEM!! After L.A. captured Game 1, the Bulls rolled in the next four, winning the series 4-1. This did not sit well with me at all!! Suddenly, my brother had bragging rights and the situation only worsened that fall, when Magic announced he would be retiring from the NBA, effective immediately, after testing positive for HIV. So, what was a kid to do? Switch sides and start cheering for Jordan? NOT A CHANCE!! He had just defeated my childhood idol in embarrassing fashion. To me, the thought of now cheering for Jordan was laughable…needless to say, the next seven NBA seasons were quite frustrating. Rooting against Jordan and his greatness was not an easy task. I mean, he was clearly the best player in the game and it wasn’t close. Jordan and the Bulls would appear in five of the next seven NBA Finals, coming out victorious each and every time. First Jordan and the Bulls took down Clyde Drexler and the Portland Trailerblazers in ’92, then it was Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns in ’93. And each summer, I would hear about it every day from my brother!! Then Jordan tried the baseball thing for reasons we still don’t really know, but in ’96 he was back and Chicago was dominant once again. The next three seasons, they would knock off the Seattle Supersonics and then the Utah Jazz twice, in back to back seasons. When it was all said and done, Jordan and the Bulls had won six titles in eight years and my brother was very good at reminding me of the fact that Magic had only won five titles.

By now, you’re probably asking not only why any of this matters, but also what does it have to do with a poster? Here’s the long answer; Because, despite Jordan and the Bulls winning year after year and my brother and I having intense one-on-one battles on the uneven, bumpy,  grassy basketball court, where the bunkhouse occupied nearly the entire right half of the court, the hoop was slightly slanted and the green water hose marked the three-point arc, at our parents’ lake cabin, this whole sibling rivalry does in fact bring back very fond memories whenever I look back at it. Sitting in the living room of our tiny lake cabin, watching the NBA Finals and then heading outside during halftime for a quick one-on-one game. My big brother and I shared a deep love for the game of basketball and without the spark provided by our Magic vs. Jordan rivalry, I honestly don’t know if I would have that same passion for the game or for sports in general, that I have today. Now, perhaps that passion could have come in a variety of other ways, but when looking back, I feel strongly that my thirst to compete and drive to succeed was somewhat born through this silly basketball rivalry with my older brother, Chad. So, when I look at the poster Vince tweeted to me, I don’t just see really cool NBA jerseys, I see very fond memories of my childhood that make me happy.

I see all those games played against Chad (who is four years older than me) and I see that look on his face the time I FINALLY beat him for the first time…and how PISSED he was!! I see my game-winning shot going through the hoop and a moment later, the ball being chucked at me, as I took off running down the trail to the neighbors cabin, yelling something back at Chad, that was my best attempt at trash talk!! But, I also see all the great things Chad taught me about the game. After all, he was older and wiser and as an elementary and eventually junior high kid, I REALLY looked up to him and teammates on the basketball court, because at the end of the day, I wanted to be not like them, but better than them. While there have been a ton of unforgettable memories playing the game of basketball, there have also been moments, as a fan, that will simply never leave me. So, as I browse this “Jerseys of the NBA” viz, which was inspired by work from the greats, Neil Richards and Simon Beaumont, here are a few of the things I see.

I look at the Boston #33 and I see Larry Bird and the Celtics battling Magic and the Lakers in multiple NBA Finals match-ups. I see Bird crushing the three-point shootout during All-Star weekend, more than once. I see Dee Brown pumping up those sweet black Reebok Pumps, that everybody HAD TO HAVE after the ’91 Slam Dunk Contest.

I look at the Chicago #23 and Hawks #21 and I see Jordan and Dominique Wilkins going head to head in some of the most entertaining slam dunk contests ever.

I look at the Pistons #11 and I see more intense NBA Finals match-ups involving Magic and the Lakers, this time against Isaiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman and the Detroit Pistons. The NBA’s Bad Boys of the 1980’s and early 1990’s.

I look at Golden State’s The City #24 and I see one of the coolest NBA jerseys ever, in my opinion. Slightly biased, as that was one of the few jerseys I actually owned.

I look at the Suns #7 and I see Kevin Johnson, Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns competing in the 1993 NBA Finals against Jordan and the Bulls. And in that same Finals, I also see the coolest Sun of them all, Thunder Dan Majerle, drilling what seemed like countless deep three-pointers.

I look at the Houston #34 and I see the Rockets and Hakeem Olajuwon taking full advantage of Jordan’s time away from the game, capturing titles in ’94 and ’95.

I look at the Spurs #21 and I see a franchise that over the last twenty years has operated in a way that I can only wish the Minnesota Timberwolves could operate like…for just ONE month!!

I look at the Wolves #21 and I see the rebirth of NBA basketball in Minnesota and I recall all of the disappointment that goes into being a Minnesota Timberwolves fan!! But also, I recall great memories of listening to the late games on the radio, as a youngster, while I lay in bed, not about to fall asleep until the final horn sounded!!

No matter how silly it may seem, these are the things I see in this viz and these are the things that made building it such an enjoyable experience. I love sports not only for the competition, but also for the team aspect and how it brings people together. So, while I’m sure Vince was well aware that I was a basketball fan when he sent out that tweet, I’m guessing he did not know how my love for the game came about. So, before sharing details on what went into building the viz, I wanted to share the story behind the viz and why it was such a special project for me. In Part II we’ll actually get into building the viz.

Thanks so much for reading and have a great day!!